Despite a 4.4% decline in profits, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide beat Wall Street estimates for the fourth quarter of 2003. Starwood — which owns and operates Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis and other hotels and resorts — reported fourth quarter net income of $87 million, or 42 cents a share, versus the previous year’s $91 million, or 45 cents a share.

Meanwhile, analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call forecasted average earnings of roughly 32 cents a share during the last quarter.

"Without major unanticipated increases in workers’ compensation, our performance and margin growth in the fourth quarter would have been much better," said chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht in a statement.

Revenue per available room (RevPAR) throughout company-owned hotels rose 6.6% worldwide and 4.4% in North America. RevPAR at Starwood’s European hotels was up 8.8% while the Asia-Pacific region saw a 56% increase. Average daily rate increased 3.5% globally but only 2.7% in North America.